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HindustanTimes Wed,24 Sep 2014

Tennis

There goes home advantage...
Sukhwant Basra, Hindustan Times
New Delhi, February 01, 2013
First Published: 01:27 IST(1/2/2013)
Last Updated: 02:20 IST(1/2/2013)

They use words like 'tough' and 'challenge' to describe this tie. But deep down the Indian Davis Cup team knows that this is going to be a battle shorn of all pretence of 'home advantage' in the traditional tennis sense of the logic.

The weather in Delhi, according to the Korean team's interpreter, is "just perfect". 

Hovering at 23 degree around noon, the scheduled starting time of the first singles, India can't count on the heat to sap away the prowess of the men from abroad.

The heat has played a huge role in many a Cup upset at home. Then, the court is a slow synthetic surface which rewards the slugger.

Both the Indian singles players for this tie aren't the kind with legs to dig out every ball and play a battle of attrition.

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Script gone wrong
To understand the logic of holding this tie here, one has to figure in the requirement of the International Tennis Federation that the venue and surface have to be conveyed at least six weeks before the actual tie.

At that time, to be fair, the All India Tennis Association did not know that its best sluggers — Somdev Devvarman (World rank 397) and Sanam Singh (298) — would be unavailable.

Or that India's other main big-hitters — Yuki Bhambri (241) and Vishnu Vardhan (339) — would also be too estranged by the body's "unprofessionalism" to play.

So now we have a bunch of guys who have been left with conditions that were crafted keeping in mind a former world number 62 — Devvarman, doing his bit in singles — and one of the better doubles players in the world, Leander Paes, in the company of Vardhan (with whom he trained for a month before the London Olympics) to seal the issue.

The AITA had reason to be cocky enough not to be bothered about compounding the sweat factor for the Koreans.

But now, much to our chagrin, we have VM Ranjeet who is ecstatic at representing the country but is not ideally suited to the surface.

He plays the rookie Korean Min-Hyeok Cho who does not even have a ranking but may still be a handful. We have Malik, all energetic, but possibly not with enough legs to keep the world number 321, Suk Young Jeong, at bay.

Meanwhile, the Koreans are not even featuring their second best singles player Yong-Kyu Lim (world rank 435) on the first day.

He is slated to play the doubles but rules allow for change an hour before the match. As such, he stays fresh for a potential pivotal encounter for the final day.

Bottom-line
After a long time in its history in this event, India goes into the first day with too many unanswered questions.

Now, the magic of Davis Cup has always been the incredibleness of it all — the dramatic brilliance when playing for the flag.

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Maybe Ranjeet or Malik will reach far beyond what they have managed till now and produce magic. Or we may stare at the nadir of a first day where both first-assault posts have been surrendered.


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